2005-2007 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan Minivans:
Making Old Seem New With Exclusive Upgrades
For 2005, Chrysler did a traditional “minivan leapfrog” in the face of new competition. The Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country gained the industry’s first minivan seats that folded into the floor, leaving a flat surface. Buyers could convert their plush passenger vans into cargo vans in around three minutes. It was a stunning feature, only available on long wheelbase vans.
Both V6 engines were upgraded; the 3.3 went to 180 horsepower with 210 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.8 went to 215 horsepower for one year, dropping to 207 in 2006. The 3.8 had 245 lb-ft of torque, for climbing hills while loaded. The 2.4 liter engine remained for short-wheelbase vans.
Gas mileage increased to 19/26 for the 3.3, 18/25 for the 3.8 (in 2008-equivalent numbers this is 17/24 and 16/23).
Export minivans had a new VM 2.8 CRD engine which delivered 150 hp at 3,800 rpm and torque of 266 lb-ft (360 Nm) at 2,100 rpm. The new engine used less than 9 liters of fuel per 100 km, meeting or beating competitors, and finally had an automatic transmission option.
Stow ’n’ Go seats were only used in long wheelbase vans; and the middle row was foldable only after the front seats were moved all the way forward and the headrests lowered; even then it was a tight fit. Rear seats were easier, involving pulling three straps (with numbers clearly marked), but still required the headrests to be lowered. Regardless, it was far easier than rolling the seats out and storing them elsewhere.
New cushions, fore-aft adjusters, and reclining seat backs were added to the second row seats; the rearmost seats were reclining split-benches.
Safety moved forward with optional three-row side curtain airbags, driver-side knee-blocker airbags, multistage front airbags, automatic deactivation of the passenger side airbag, and an optional rear obstacle detection system. Drivers could choose whether to have the hazard flashers activate when the sliding doors were used.
Options included the UConnect voice command / phone system, navigation, a moveable / removable overhead rail system with storage bins, DVD screen, and rear temperature controls.
For 2006, the second-row storage bin covers had a tri-fold access panel for easier access.
Noise and vibration reduction
By using computer simulations and testing in Chrysler's state-of-the-art Auburn Hills wind tunnel and four-post shakers, engineers quieted their minivans by 16%. Some changes were:
- Sprayed-in noise dampeners applied to the floor, toe-pan, cowl, and roof panel.
- Expandable polyurethane foam injected into cavities.
- A revised underbody structure for high bending and torsional stiffness, isolating suspension vibration and chatter.
- A fluid-filled hydro engine mount reduced engine vibration into the front rails.
- Suspension control arms used hydro bushings to reduce vibration.
- Second-row seats tuned to dampen vibration.
- More precisely sized folding seats and covers prevented squeaks and rattles.
- Wind noise was cut with triple door seals, molded gaskets, aerodynamically configured roof rack cross bows, and a spiraled antenna.
- Diesel models had new silencers.
The 2006 minivans dated back ten years, in their essence, to the 1996 minivans which were best-sellers. Those were a “clean sheet” design, the first for the successful people-movers. In 2001, the company did a major upgrade, boosting V-6 engine power, adding dual power sliding side doors (with an industry first motor in the door) with obstacle detection; a power tailgate; removable center console; triple-zone automatic temperature control option; and numerous safety upgrades.
The 1996 seat and floor heights were kept. All minivans had the four-speed automatic, now up to normal reliability, with a choice of engines (2.4 four, 3.3 V6, 3.8 V6— but not the planned 250-hp 3.5 — and a VM direct-injection diesel for outside North America). The front suspension kept the MacPherson strut design, with a potential upper strut mount, while in back, the original solid axle with leaf springs remained; the company claimed lower cost, better transient handling under a full load, and higher space use. There were still two wheelbases; AWD was dropped, leaving front wheel drive.
By 2005, the Plymouth brand was gone, and replaced by lower end Chrysler vans; Dodge still had a firmer suspension, though that would end with the 2008s.
Interior of 2005 Chrysler Town & Country
- Sycamore wood was used in the center stack bezel of top models, with satin silver accents; the wood and silver continued through the cabin.
- Chromed Chrysler badging with a Chrysler seal was integrated into steering wheel horn pad. The low-end Touring trim had a satin silver appearance on the center stack bezel.
- The Chrysler winged badge extended for the width of the grille
- New dual headlamps and a new front fascia included a molded-in license plate pocket, circular fog lamps, and chromed fascia inserts; a bright roof rack and new cladding with chromed inserts were used to enhance the side view (except on Touring, which was essentially a replacement for the midline Plymouth)
- A new rear fascia had chromed inserts (except on Touring) with four integrated sensors for rear park assist (only when it was purchased)
- Chromed Dodge badging was used in the steering wheel horn pad; SE had a mechanical-grained appearance on the center stack bezel, while SXT had a new carbon-weave design there. It too had a new front fascia with a molded-in license plate pocket and new fog lamps, with machined body-side moldings with chromed inserts.
Dodge Caravan, Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Town & Country were built in Windsor, Ontario; St. Louis, Missouri; and, briefly, Chrysler Voyager was built in Graz, Austria.
2007 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan changes
Changes to Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country for 2007 included changes to standard features and option packages. The driver-side inflatable knee blocker was standard on all models.
The 3.3 was now sold as a flex-fuel engine in 45 states, capable of using E85 fuel; it was optional on Grand Caravan SE and produced 180 hp, 210 lb-ft of torque with gasoline. UConnect was optional on all models and two new blue pearl colors were added.
SAE standardization dropped the normal 3.3 down to 170 hp, and the 3.8L to 200 hp. Other manufacturers saw similar or more severe drops. The American Chrysler Voyager (the Plymouth Voyager with Chrysler badging and styling) was dropped, after having minimal sales for years.
Safety features not mentioned already were:
- New multistage airbags that changed force based on the severity of a crash
- Retractors that force-limited the seat belt system and gradually released the belts in a controlled manner during severe impacts
- Turned on the interior lighting and unlocking the doors after air bag deployment (to help rescuers)
- A steering column using release capsules to let it absorb more energy during a crash, along with tuned metal bend straps a joint which limited the force of the chest-to-steering-wheel impact.
- A system automatically activated or deactivated the passenger-side air bag based upon the weight of the occupant
- During a collision, the front seat belt pretensioners immediately removed slack, reducing the forward movement of the occupant’s body
- Mopar sold side mirrors with integrated turn signals.